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Green Ways to Stay Cool in the Summer

Relief from the heat can come in many forms.

Operating an air conditioner is an $11 billion a year venture for Americans. What’s more, those a/c units release about 100 million tons of carbon monoxide into the air annually — two tons for each home using one, according to WebMD. You can, however, reduce your own carbon footprint while staying cooler this summer, and save some money on electricity costs while you’re at it.

Reducing body heat

“The lowest-tech ways to keep cool this summer start with your own body,” said Camille Peri in a WebMD feature provided in collaboration with Healthy Child Healthy World.

Wear clothes made from natural fabrics such as cotton, hemp and linen, which breathe better than synthetic fibers and naturally wick away moisture. Dine on ‘cool,’ light meals like salads and sandwiches instead of protein-rich meals that warm up the body, not to mention the oven or the stove, working against your goal. Use cool water to decrease your body temperature by soaking your feet in a tub of cold water, wearing a wet bandana or taking a cool shower. A spray bottle of cold water to spritz yourself throughout the day is a good idea, as well.

Furthermore, remember that warm air rises; therefore, the basement or ground floor is the coolest story of your home or building. Plan to spend most of your time there, or embark on trips to air-conditioned public places like the mall or the library.

In-home techniques

If you ever plan to start caring about your home’s décor, now would be the time. Use window coverings to your advantage by keeping your dark-colored curtains or shades pulled throughout the heat of the day, as that can block up to 80 percent of solar heat. Appliances inside the home such as the aforementioned stove add to the internal heat and energy consumption of your household, so utilize microwaves or toaster-ovens, which use up to two-thirds less energy.

Also, consider changing your light bulbs to energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs or halogen infrareds. Lastly, use fans inside the home, especially when it starts to cool down in the evening. Portable fans placed in front of an open window can bring that cool air inside, and a ceiling fan will help circulate it. Even if you have an air conditioner, turn on your ceiling fans to help make the room feel cooler.

Outside the home

Shading from the inside with curtains and blinds is a good first step, but shading from the outside can be even better,” Peri said.

One of the least expensive ways to do so is to install awnings. The Department of Energy estimates that awnings can reduce solar heat gain in the home by as much as 77 percent. Woven mesh solar, solar control windows, and reflective window film are some additional, yet more costly options.

Maintaining your air conditioner

If you do opt to use an a/c unit, keep the filter clean so airflow is not limited and the appliance lasts longer. Filters should be cleaned or replaced every month or so, depending on usage. Similarly, make sure the air conditioner gets a tune-up from a professional every few years to make sure it’s still running efficiently. Install a programmable thermostat to turn on right before you come home, and set it a bit higher than normal for when you’re home. A few degrees make a big difference, in terms of energy, but your body won’t notice the difference. Finally, a shaded air conditioner uses up to 10 percent less energy to operate, so don’t place your central a/c in direct sunlight.

Going into a cool room on a hot day is among the most enjoyable feelings you can experience. Follow these helpful suggestions and make this summer your best yet.


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